New Delhi based UNIDO Deputy Representative for South Asia, Antonios Levissianos was in town this week to attend a seminar on Bamboo Processing in Sri Lanka, organised by UNIDO Sri Lanka Focal office at Galle Face Hotel in Colombo.
The Seminar was part of the Phase III of the Industrial Development Support Programme of UNIDO, under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka and was in-fact the first ever formal bamboo processing industry related effort in Sri Lanka. Having successfully launched Sri Lanka’s Bamboo Industry Processing effort, UNIDO’s Levissianos expressed his views to the Media of the Ministry of Industry & Commerce. Excerpts:
Q: What is your view on the top most potential sectors of Sri Lanka industries?
A: The Tourism industry comes to my mind followed by service sector such ICT and BPO and even education sector. The huge Agro base has potential for Going Green and can become an important player in this. Wood, rubber and tea will continue their traditional dominance and grow in the near future. Despite volatility in tea, there is long term potential. Waste management can be an important potential opportunity. I see energy sector becoming a very big player, particularly the renewable energy sector: the mini-hydros, etc.
Q: A little more on your view on waste management?
A: Though not directly, waste management will help the tourism industry ‘a lot.’ When I say ‘waste management’ it is not mere garbage disposal. It’s also large scale waste such as industrial, medical and urban. It’s not that Sri Lanka has a ‘problem of waste management’ as such but this is a part of the global problem in connection between initial investment and profitability. And I believe Sri Lanka’s waste can be effectively recycled to power production and also create employment opportunities and give fillip to the tourism industry in the long run in general due to the cleaner environment that results. Waste management in Sri Lanka could become more manageable if more supervisory action is initiated and if Public Private Partnership efforts are undertaken into relevant initiatives.
Q: What do you think of the status of industry-to-industry links within the South Asian region?
A: Inter country industry links in South Asia is an important issue and will boost industrial development greatly if implemented. These links need to be improved in a big way for the region’s industries to move forward. As Sri Lanka’s Industry Minister Rishad Bathiudeen said in June in Maldives, trade between most of the countries in this region is low since they manufacture and export similar goods.
But this also gives you a good opening to forge country to country industry links and alliances within same industries.
Under the UNIDO’s South-South Cooperation, UNIDO is facilitating technology transfer and cooperation within the least developed countries and under developed countries to facilitate inter and intra industry contacts and know how transfer.
Q: How do we overcome competition within the region for similar products?
A: By differentiating through branding efforts and also by targeting increasing number of niches by further differentiation. Go to various niches-high end, low end, demographic based….you have to try all.
Q: After Bamboo, what are the future UNIDO plans for Sri Lanka?
A: We are not conclusive about our specific areas of intervention in Sri Lanka as such but looking at various points of strategic interventions such as assisting the renewable power and energy sector, medical waste management, industrial waste management, and energy efficiency. Energy intervention simply because Sri Lanka is not generating oil but importing crude oil and the valuable export incomes are negated by huge payments for oil and power generation costs. Also, salinity in soil in the island appears to be on the increase, an area of concern in future.
Q: Any special message to Sri Lanka?
A: UNIDO is very happy and honoured to partner Sri Lanka in its new economic upswing and would be pleased to extend its support and cooperation in its national development thrust.